As it happened: Pressure on Russia

Key Points

  • Ukraine's interim prime minister says the Crimea referendum "will not be recognised"
  • Russia's upper house of parliament voices support to Crimea in its bid to become part of Russia
  • OSCE monitors are prevented for a second day from entering Crimea
  • Ukraine's Paralympic team decides to remain in Sochi for the Games while appealing to Russia for peace
  • Russian energy giant Gazprom warns Ukraine it will cut gas exports if debts are not paid off.
  • Prominent far right leader Dmytro Yarosh to stand for president in Ukraine. All times GMT

    Welcome to our live coverage of the crisis between Russia and Ukraine over Crimea, as US President Barack Obama urges Vladimir Putin to seek a diplomatic solution. Stay with us for the latest developments, analysis and colour from our correspondents on the ground and your comments, of course.


    Ukraine's Paralympic chief, Valeriy Sushkevich, says he has asked President Putin to ensure there will be peace during the Games in Sochi, so his team will not have to pull out over events at home - Reuters. "I repeated my one request, the one and most important request, that before and during [the Games] there will be peace," he told reporters in Sochi.


    In the centre of the Ukrainian capital Kiev, there are quiet moves to restore a sense of normality after weeks when militant protesters, often masked and armed with baseball bats, seemed to rule the streets.

    Sarah Rainsford, BBC News,

    tweets: Message on Kiev's Independence Square to "self defence" groups: no masks, no baseball bats.

    Message on Kiev's Independence Square
    Christopher Miller, @KyivPost journalist

    tweets: About 30,000 Russian soldiers have been deployed in Crimea, the State Border Service of Ukraine reports.


    Eighty fourth subject? The speaker of Russia's upper house of parliament, Valentina Matviyenko, says Crimea will be welcomed as an equal if it joins ranks with the Russian Federation's 83 existing subjects, as Russia's regions are called. She was meeting a delegation from the Crimean parliament in Moscow.


    Ukraine is ready for talks with Russia, but Moscow must first withdraw its troops, abide by international agreements and halt its support for "separatists and terrorists", Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk says - Reuters.


    Ukraine's Paralympic chief suggests the crisis may be taking a toll on the fitness of his team in Sochi - AP. "I don't know to what extent the team can focus on the result now."


    Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski says the EU needs to strengthen its defence policy and upgrade its response capabilities in the light of the crisis in Ukraine - Reuters.


    Poland, which borders both Ukraine and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, is one of the EU states pushing for a tougher policy towards the Kremlin.

    Asamenew, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

    emails: I don't agree with the West's position on this issue. Some stick at nothing and Russia has the right to defend its interest in the region and all other countries have been doing the same for decades. Why is Europe in favour of the new regime in Kiev? I think this is not the right time to be in favour or against the new government as long as they have others behind them on different agenda. Please leave everything for the people of Ukraine to decide.

    Leonid Ragozin, Lonely Planet writer

    tweets: Swedish FM @carlbildt talks Ukraine in Narva [Estonia], where Swedes heavily defeated Russians in 1700 before Russians crushed them in Ukraine in 1709


    Foreign ministers of Baltic and Nordic states have called on the EU to send an observer mission to Ukraine as soon as possible - Reuters.


    Here is Russia's upper house speaker, Valentina Matviyenko, alongside Crimean parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Konstantynov in Moscow.

    Russia's upper house speaker, Valentina Matviyenko, alongside Crimean parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Konstantynov in Moscow, 7 March
    Tony Westgate, Milton Keynes

    emails: The stalemate in negotiations is principally about legitimacy: Russia will not recognise the new government and the West regards the former government as history. Unlike chess, which has only two options and therefore a stalemate is irresolvable, the real world is not limited to just two alternatives. A constructive way out of this situation which avoids either side recognising what they don't wish to, would be to involve a third party without close ties to either side as a mediator, even possibly running an interim administration and conducting elections so a government legitimate to both sides can be established.


    Prime Minister Yatsenyuk says part of the landmark association agreement with the EU will be signed in the next few weeks - Kyiv Post.


    It was former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych's last-minute refusal to sign the association agreement in November that set off the protest wave, which ultimately swept him from office.


    Another story developing in the Kyiv Post: "Right Sector not ruling out war in Crimea and its participation in conflict." Right Sector is an umbrella group for radical nationalists in Ukraine and was heavily involved in the street unrest in Kiev.


    A pundit in Tajikistan, an ex-Soviet republic in Central Asia which experienced a bitter civil war after the collapse of the USSR in 1991, argues the Ukrainian scenario may be repeated elsewhere in the region. "The reasons are the same: people do not like it when they are kept far from their national resources and when a government, culture and world outlook are imposed on them," Saymuddin Dustov told the Tajik newspaper Nigoh, in a piece viewed by BBC Monitoring. "They never liked it. However, now communication allows them to unite and act efficiently against any government."


    Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenyuk warns Crimea the outcome of its self-declared referendum on 16 March will not be recognised by the rest of the world: "I want to immediately warn the separatists and other traitors to the Ukrainian state who are trying to work against Ukraine. Any decision of yours is deliberately unlawful and unconstitutional and no-one in the civilised world will recognise the decision of the so-called referendum of the so-called Crimean authorities."

    11:22: Toby Brown, BBC News

    writes: Udar [one of Ukraine's biggest political parties] MP tells BBC the referendum is illegal. There could be negotiations on autonomy for all regions (Crimea and the East) in the future but now is not the time. She also fears that the longer the Russians stay the more chance "some could be shot by Ukrainians".

    Chris Humphries, Germany

    emails: The main issue is to get Ukraine into Europe to push the euro further eastwards and give the EU control over yet another country. A very dangerous position, considering Russia cannot and will not give up Crimea.


    "The test of policy is how it ends, not how it begins:" former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (in office 1973-77) has written a thought-provoking piece in the Washington Post on how the crisis in Ukraine may develop. He argues for a strong independent Ukraine which retains Crimea, albeit on a "less fraught basis". Significantly, he wants Ukraine to stay outside Nato. "Internationally, they should pursue a posture comparable to that of Finland," he says.

    Mark, Salisbury

    emails: Let the people of Crimea decide their own future. The self-proclaimed government in Kiev has no right to deny them the right to self-determination.

    Stuart Bolus

    tweets: With Crimea it brings home a truth to all of us in Europe. Borders are just lines on a map even we are not immune to that

    11:37: Steve Rosenberg, BBC News,

    writes from Moscow: Russia shows no sign of backing down in the face of Western pressure.


    Here the head of Ukraine's Paralympic committee, Valeriy Sushkevich, is seen inviting athlete Grygorii Vovchynskyi to take a seat at their news conference in Sochi.

    Valeriy Sushkevich (R) and athlete Grygorii Vovchynskyi in Sochi, 7 March

    More from that meeting of foreign ministers from Nordic, Baltic and Central European (Visegrad) states, taking place in the Estonian city of Narva. In a joint statement, they condemn "the attack on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and also... the illegal referendum on the joining of Crimea with Russia".


    Ukraine's radical nationalists have put forward a candidate for the presidential election on 25 May: Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh. A spokesman, Andriy Tarasenko, is quoted by AFP as saying: "We remain the leaders of this revolution."


    Mr Yarosh, 42, advocates a "national revolution" and has called for a ban on both Ukraine's former ruling party, the Party of the Regions, and its ally, the Communist Party. Read more about the Right Sector leader and other .

    Dmytro Yarosh  in Kiev, 5 February

    Prime Minister Yatsenyuk says Ukraine is open to talks with Russia under certain conditions: "Our Russian neighbours... should, first, withdraw their troops. Second, implement bilateral and multilateral agreements Russia signed. Third, it should stop supporting the separatists and terrorists who are staying on the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Fourth, it should tell the whole world that Ukraine and Russia have begun building up a new type of relations."


    One Russian-language reaction on Twitter to news Mr Yarosh is standing for president in Ukraine: "I am less worried about US sanctions than the fact that a new Hitler called Yarosh is straining to take power in the Ukraine. Europe will wake up too late while it will be up to our guys to crush the hydra."

    Infectious Harmony

    emails: It is not external forces that are pulling apart the country, it is the now obvious ethnic and social divide within the country itself that is destroying it from within. The foreign intervention we see, while not morally correct, is merely a strategic exploitation of a deeply divided country.


    Ukraine's far right "bear close watching - very close". Read this feature by the BBC's David Stern.

    Edward, Chichester

    emails: It usually takes months to organise a referendum, with such a short time frame and with the denial of access to OSCE observers, will the referendum in Crimea truly be free and fair? Bearing in mind that 58% of Crimea's population is ethnically Russian and not all of them pro-Moscow, is it a referendum that can be won by Russia without vote rigging?

    Martin, France/Eastern Ukraine

    emails: There is a serious flaw in the new government in Kiev that does not inspire confidence and needs to be addressed. There is a big big difference between patriotism and nationalism and Kiev has far too many nationalists in its new government. If West Ukraine really wanted to make it work with Eastern Ukraine it would be appealing to them but instead it is trying to force the issue by its rhetoric and its actions which show its true intentions. Also more please on the sniper issue, the people have a right to know WHO hired and WHO was behind the snipers as we hear only rumours.


    The US is sending an additional six F-15 fighter jets and one KC-135 refuelling aircraft to Lithuania to bolster Nato's watch on Baltic airspace. Here is one of the four American F-15s currently stationed at Siauliai Zuokiniai.

    F-15 jet at Siauliai Zuokiniai, Lithuania, 6 March

    It seems there was a security scare involving the Ukrainian prime minister's jet last night, as he flew back to Kiev from Brussels via Vienna. Acting on a security warning from German flight controllers, Swat teams boarded his Austrian Airlines flight after its scheduled landing in Vienna, AP reports. They found nothing out of the ordinary. Mr Yatsenyuk then took his scheduled connection on to Kiev. German flight control spokeswoman Kristina Kelek says the initial warning came from Belgian police. It was, she adds, a vague warning that "there was possibly a terrorist attack planned".

    Robbie, Milton Keynes

    emails: Even if Crimea separates through referendum, it will not be self-sustainable. It has been said that it will cost Russia $3bn a year, and it's obvious that it will not be maintained beyond Russia's military needs. They have a big Russian base there, but education, health, services and infrastructure will all collapse as nations turn their back on the region and income evaporates. It has no industry to speak of, just tourism and Ukrainian financial backing. With these things gone, Crimea will become a wasteland with a Russian base on it. The people who would vote for this are delusional.

    Natalia, Dundee

    emails: I am deeply concerned that the myth about "deeply divided" Ukraine is gaining power in the English-speaking media. Multi-thousand rallies in support of Ukrainian unity in ALL regional centres of Eastern and Southern Ukraine - Kharkov, Donetsk, Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa, Nikolaev, Kherson, Lugansk - that happened in the last few days, clearly show otherwise. You do not have to take my word for it, video evidence is all over the web.


    Ukrainian border guards say Russia now has 30,000 soldiers inside Crimea. Serhiy Stakhov, an aide to the head of the border guards service, tells Reuters the figure is an estimate and includes both troops who arrived since last week and Russia's Black Sea Fleet, permanently based in the Crimean port of Sevastopol.

    12:29: Bethany Bell, BBC News, Vienna

    writes: False terror alarm last night on Yatsenyuk's plane in Vienna. Police in Austria say that elite Cobra forces and anti-terrorism officials last night searched a plane at Vienna airport which was carrying the Ukrainian interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, en route from Brussels. They had been alerted to a possible threat to the plane, but a search revealed nothing suspicious. The flight later continued to Kiev.


    Here Mr Yatsenyuk holds up a copy of the EU's "support package for Ukraine" at his news conference in Kiev. The European Commission says Ukraine may receive up to 11bn euros (£9bn; $15bn) in the next couple of years provided it reaches agreement with the International Monetary Fund and undertakes painful economic reforms.

    Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Kiev, 7 March

    A Ukrainian commercial TV channel is reporting a new ultimatum from the Russian military to Ukrainian troops at a command post in Crimea's biggest city, Sevastopol. According to 5 Kanal TV, viewed by BBC Monitoring, Ukrainian soldiers at the Krym post have been given three hours to leave or face the use of force. Worth noting, however, that this is not the first time ultimatums have been reported in Crimea this month, and no blood appears to have been shed to date.


    Military observers who were blocked from entering Crimea by land will make a second attempt to enter shortly, a source travelling with them told AFP. The team of 40 are from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE), one of the world's largest regional security organisations.


    There are only two main roads leading into Crimea from the rest of Ukraine, one crossing the narrow Isthmus of Perekop in the west and another eastern route on the Azov Sea. It is unclear which route the OSCE team will take, AFP adds.


    Russia's Black Sea Fleet dominates the port of Sevastopol - and much of the strategic thinking about Crimea's future.

    A Russian Mi-24 helicopter flies over the Russian warship General Ryabikov in Sevastopol, 7 March

    Why is Crimea so dangerous? Read our guide to one of history's great flash-points.


    Update on new OSCE attempt to enter Crimea by land: the team of observers is heading for the village of Chungar, in the north-east, the BBC's Bethany Bell confirms from Vienna. Russia, a member of the OSCE, is not part of the decision to send in the team. There are 43 observers involved, mainly from European states but also including North Americans.


    Russia accuses the EU of taking an "extremely unconstructive position" by freezing talks on easing visa barriers for travel between Russia and the EU. "Russia will not accept the language of sanctions and threats," the foreign ministry in Moscow says on its website. It promises to retaliate if sanctions are put into effect.

    Bethany Bell, BBC News, Vienna

    tweets: OSCE says military assessment group now approaching Crimean border at Chungar

    Iain Colledge, Ruislip

    emails: For a parliament that claims everything is above board it is interesting that Crimea is blocking international observers from entering and confirming their position.

    13:23: BBC Monitoring

    writes: Ukraine's 5 Kanal TV says Serbian nationalists are patrolling the streets of Crimea alongside Russian Cossacks. The TV showed one man, who was captioned as a Serbian citizen, saying that he and his brother had come to Crimea "at the request of the Russian Cossacks". It noted that the men were wearing "Chetnik badges". Serbia's Press website also reports that five self-declared members of the nationalist paramilitary Chetnik group arrived in Sevastopol earlier in the week, at the invitation of the Cossacks.


    Russian gas exports to Europe through Ukraine have not been affected by political turmoil there and are "trouble-free" as of Friday, a spokesman for the state-controlled gas company Gazprom is quoted as saying by Reuters. Gazprom ships around half of its gas flows to Europe via Ukraine, the news agency notes. The company meets around 30% of the EU's gas consumption needs.


    Ukraine's defence ministry has cancelled a bilateral agreement on military training in Russia for its forces. It says that 26 Ukrainians currently enrolled at Russian military academies are being called home.

    13:30: Bethany Bell, BBC News Vienna

    writes: The OSCE says its team of military assessment observers has crossed the first checkpoint, waiting at second, to move into Crimea.


    A group of Crimean Tartars has arrived in the west Ukrainian city of Lviv. According to AFP news agency, the Tartars fled Crimea to look for security away from Russian forces.

    A Crimean Tartar girl looks out from a car as she leaves the train station in Lviv with her family after disembarking from a train from Simferopol, 7 March
    Steve Rosenberg, BBC News in Moscow

    tweets: They're chanting "Moscow! Russia! Crimea!" by the Kremlin at this rally organised by the authorities


    A man collects bread discarded from blockaded warships in the port of Sevastopol on Friday.

    An elderly man collects bread in Sevastopol harbour on 7 March 2014
    13:37: Bethany Bell, BBC News Vienna

    writes: At the OSCE headquarters in Vienna, there is widespread "overwhelming" support for the need to decide on a long-term monitoring mission to Ukraine. But one delegation says it has no instructions to proceed. That delegation is Russia. Any decision needs to be made by all OSCE states, including Russia.


    The OSCE team have been blocked by armed men from entering Crimea through the Chungar border, an AFP reporter at the scene says.


    The BBC's Steve Rosenberg tweets this photo of a pro-Crimea rally outside the Kremlin on Friday. AFP says more than 65,000 people gathered to show support for the pro-Russian authorities in Crimea.

    Pro-Russia rally outside the Kremlin on 7 March 2014

    Russia's President Putin tells the Ukrainian Paralympic chief that politics and international affairs must not affect sporting events, such as the Paralympic Games which open in Sochi shortly, Reuters reports quoting Interfax.

    Geoffrey Pyatt, United States Ambassador to Ukraine

    tweets: Evidence suggests that Russian security services are at the heart of the well-organized anti-Ukraine forces in Crimea: …


    OSCE officials warn of a "media freedom crisis" in Ukraine, citing cases of "intimidation, beatings and media censorship".


    The OSCE's media freedom representative, Dunja Mijatovic, calls on "those responsible to stop the information war, ensure journalists' safety in Crimea and elsewhere and immediately start to de-escalate the situation by allowing media to report freely".


    Ukrainian 5 Kanal TV has aired a clip of a senior member of the Ukrainian border guard service saying he was detained and beaten up by Russian troops in the Crimean town of Yalta earlier this week (BBC Monitoring).

    Col-Gen Mykhaylo Koval said the Russian soldiers ordered him out of his car and beat him with a bat, before eventually releasing him.


    BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson, who is at the Chungar border, confirms the OSCE team have been prevented from entering Crimea for a second day in a row.

    Bethany Bell, BBC News in Vienna

    tweets: OSCE meeting on #Ukraine starts in Vienna, diplomats assembling in historic Hofburg palace, site of much diplomacy, incl Congress of Vienna


    A woman uses a pulley to get food to her husband on a blockaded Ukrainian ship in Sevastopol port

    A woman uses a pulley to send her husband food on a blockaded Ukrainian warship in Sevastopol harbour on 7 March 2014 in Sevastopol, Ukraine.

    Ukraine's 5 Kanal TV reports that members of Russia's Black Sea Fleet have sunk a third ship at the entrance to Lake Donuzlav - which opens onto the Black Sea - reportedly to prevent Ukrainian ships currently in Donuzlav from reaching the Black Sea. The TV noted that two other ships were sunk in the same area yesterday as part of Russia's blockade of the Ukrainian navy. (BBC Monitoring)

    Lynn, New Orleans, USA

    emails: The fact that the Ukrainian Parliament passed legislation banning the use of Russian means that there would be massive institutionalized discrimination against ethnic Russians in the Ukraine. Unfortunately, the West doesn't seem to be complaining about this or insisting on the law's repeal. I can only imagine the outrage if the American Congress passed a law banning the use of Spanish In the United States.


    Russia's state-controlled gas company Gazprom warns Ukraine it could cut off gas exports if it does not pay off its $1.89bn debt, reports say.


    Gazprom halted gas supplies to Ukraine at the start of 2009, a move that led to reductions in supplies of Russian gas to much of the EU.

    Kevin Bishop, BBC News

    tweets: Russian Duma to hold 1st reading of law to include Crimea into Russian Federation on 21st March - Interfax


    More from Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller, who says: "Either Ukraine makes good on its debt and pays for current supplies, or there is risk of returning to the situation of early 2009."


    One of the Russian anti-submarine ships that was scuttled by Russian forces in the same lake on Thursday, according to Ukrainian reports.

    People watch the Russian anti-submarine ship "Ochakov" which was scuttled by Russian forces at a Black Sea shore outside the town of Myrnyi, western Crimea, Ukraine, on 6  March 2014.

    Foreign ministers from Nordic, Baltic and Central European (Visegrad) states attend a meeting in the Estonian city of Narva to discuss the Ukraine crisis.

    Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet speaks at a meeting of the foreign ministers from the Nordic, Baltic and Visegrad countries in Narva, Estonia on 7 March 2014.

    A US warship has passed through Turkey's Bosporus Strait en route to the Black Sea, in what the US military described as a "routine" deployment scheduled before the Ukraine crisis began, Reuters reports.


    If you missed this earlier, Ukraine's Paralympic Committee President Valeriy Sushkeyvich has confirmed his country will take part in the Sochi Paralympics, which opens soon. You can read more in our Sports story here.

    Will Vernon, BBC News

    tweets: Russia's Federation Council, the upper house of #Russia's parliament, will send observers to the #Crimea Referendum - FC press office

    Aigars Rosenberg, London, UK

    emails: The Russian language is not banned and never was in Ukraine. My relatives live in Dnepropetrovsk and speak Russian on an everyday basis, never was there an issue with them using this language. Discrimination of Russians is non-existent and is utter lie by the Kremlin to create a national conflict, which in reality is social conflict arising from rampant corruption in both countries.


    The chief of staff of a Ukrainian naval base surrounded by Russian troops and Cossacks tells the BBC that they refused to lock up their weapons when told to by the men who are besieging the base.

    Olexander Yesin says they have raised a Ukrainian flag high above the entrance "in case anybody doubts who we are".


    The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says it is "impressed" with the Ukrainian interim government's commitment to the reforms required in exchange for aid, AFP reports.

    IMF European Department Director Reza Moghadam said he was "positively impressed" with their "determination, sense of responsibility and commitment to an agenda of economic reform and transparency".

    15:10: Bethany Bell, BBC News in Vienna

    writes: The OSCE says the team of observers from 23 OSCE countries has been prevented from entering Crimea for the second day. They are returning to Kherson, where they spent the night yesterday and are planning to try to enter Crimea again tomorrow.


    The leader of Crimea's Tatar community Refat Chubarov, as he leaves a mosque in Simferopol.

    Refat Chubarov, chairman of the Mejlis (assembly) of the Crimean Tatar People, speaks as he leaves a mosque in Simferopol on 7 March 2014.

    Anxious about the referendum, Mr Chubarov says: An understanding from the Russian side is very important to us. We want them to understand our love for our land and consider the fact that we do not have another homeland. We don't another choice. They do."


    The Turkish military says it scrambled six F-16 jets for a second time this week after a Russian surveillance plane flew parallel with Turkey's Black Sea coast, Reuters reports.


    Russian President Vladimir Putin says he hopes "the Paralympics will bring down the temperature surrounding Ukraine at least a little bit," speaking to the president of the International Paralympics Committee on Friday, Interfax reports (BBC Monitoring).


    "The main thing is for none of this to affect the sportsmen, so that they can concentrate on the competition," Mr Putin added.

    Sir Philip Craven replied: "It's all in your capable hands."


    Crimean Tatars pray in the Khan mosque in the Crimean town of Bakhchysarai on Friday.

    Crimean Tatars pray in the Han mosque in the small Crimean city of Bakhchysarai on 7 March 2014.

    Russia now says the OSCE delegation who were prevented from entering Crimea earlier on Friday had failed to obtain "official invitations" from the Crimean authorities, AFP reports.


    The website of Kerch Net TV has posted a video said to show some 20 Russian military vehicles driving through the centre of Kerch, located on the coast of the Kerch Strait that separates Crimea and Russia. Al-Jazeera correspondent Nick Schifrin reported seeing a "massive convoy of Russian troops on the move" near the city. The BBC has not independently confirmed the reports.


    French President Francois Hollande (centre) welcomed the head of Ukraine's UDAR party Vitali Klitschko (left) and the Ukrainian MP and businessman, Petro Poroshenko, at the Elysee palace on Friday

    French President Francois Hollande welcomes the head of the Ukrainian opposition UDAR (PUNCH) party Vitali Klitschko and the Ukrainian MP and businessman Petro Poroshenko at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris on 7 March 2014.

    Francois Hollande says there can be no referendum on the future of Crimea unless Ukraine decides to organise one, AFP reports.

    "The territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine are non-negotiable," the French president said after a meeting with Mr Klitschko.

    Bethany Bell, BBC News in Vienna

    tweets: OSCE says team of observers trying to get into Crimea were held at checkpoint for 3 hours, before being refused entry.


    The UN assistant secretary general for human rights, Ivan Simonovic, arrived in Ukraine on Thursday to conduct a preliminary assessment of the human rights situation in the country, the UN says.

    He plans to meet government officials and civil society organisations in Kiev, Lviv, Kharkiv and Simferopol during his eight-day visit.


    Mr Simonovic's visit comes after another senior UN envoy, Robert Serry, was forced to end his mission in Crimea early after he was stopped by armed men and besieged in a cafe on Wednesday.


    The referendum planned by the pro-Russian regional parliament in Crimea has got analysts weighing up the pros and cons of the region breaking away from Ukraine, writes BBC Monitoring in its latest press review from the region.


    The writing's on the wall: Graffiti in Crimea's Simferopol reads "The Russians are coming - Resistance".

    A woman passes by a graffiti that reads "The Russians are coming - Resistance" in Simferopol, Ukraine, on 7  March 2014.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel tells members of the Eastern Partnership - an EU initiative governing relationships with former Soviet Union states - to "learn from the past, learn from the wars" when fighting for democracy. She was addressing the European Popular Party congress in Dublin on Friday,


    Turkey will not "leave Crimean Tatars in the lurch," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is quoted as saying by Turkey's Anadolu news agency.

    "I have talked to Russian President Putin on the events in Crimea and told him that Russia should protect the rights of Crimean Tatars as they do with the Russian majority and other minorities in Crimea," he adds.


    The call for a Crimea referendum on whether to join Russia has split opinion across both Ukraine and Russia. Take a look at our Voices: 'Crimea is Crimea' piece to see some BBC News readers' views on the latest developments.


    Russians staged a rally in the southern city of Stavropol on Friday in support of Moscow's policy in Crimea.

    People hold a rally in the Russian southern city of Stavropol, in support of the people of Crimea on 7  March  2014.

    A local MP speaking at a rally in the Russian city of Pyatigorsk said: "For many years, Russia and Ukraine have been one country. And today some people have emerged who want to ban the Russian language in Ukraine. The West teaches us how to treat our brothers. We will sort it out ourselves, and Fascism will not pass." (Russia's Regnum news agency, via BBC Monitoring)


    You can follow live text coverage of the opening ceremony in Sportsday Live.


    A Ukrainian athlete takes part in the Paralympic Games opening ceremony, which is now underway in Sochi. The competitor is greeted by a huge cheer from the audience.


    The BBC's Ben Brown visits a Ukrainian naval base that had been surrounded by what appeared to be Russian forces in Sevastopol, Crimea. Watch the video of his visit.


    Mykailo Tkachenko (left) was the only competitor from Ukraine to take part in the opening ceremony in Sochi.

    Mykailo Tkachenko of Ukraine bears the flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, on 7 March

    President Putin's spokesman says despite "deep disagreements" with the West over Ukraine, he hopes common ground will be found and there will be no new Cold War, Reuters reports, quoting Russian news agencies.

    Sarah Rainsford, BBC News in Kiev

    tweets: The clean-up: people re-laying paving stones near Independence Square today. The stones had been used vs police in the demos.

    People clearing up streets near Kiev's Independence Square on 7 March
    17:33: Richard Galpin, BBC World Affairs reporter

    Russia is steadily ratcheting up the pressure on the new government in Kiev. The Kremlin appears to be preparing to annexe the Crimean region following a referendum due to take place there in nine days time. Assuming the vote is in favour of joining Russia then the parliament here in Moscow will debate legislation to try to make it legal."


    Elderly people exercising on the seafront in Sevastopol earlier on Friday.

    Elderly people perform morning exercises on the seafront of Sevastopol on 7 March 2014.

    No Ukrainian TV channels broadcast the Sochi Paralympics opening ceremony live on Friday, our colleagues at BBC Monitoring note.


    Russian President Vladimir Putin at the opening ceremony in Sochi: "I declare the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games open."


    More from President Putin's spokesman, who, according to Interfax news agency, says the Kremlin fears there will be ethnic persecution in Crimea and eastern Ukraine if those behind the change of government in Kiev reach these regions (Reuters).

    Bahrinegash, Ede, Holland

    emails: It is extreme hypocrisy when Secretary Kerry and European politicians argue that only the people of Ukraine should decide on the cessation of Crimea because it is unconstitutional. Yet they have recognized the illegitimate government in Kiev. If that is the case, then not the Scottish but the people of UK should decide whether a referendum can be held in Scotland. For that matter the same procedure should have been followed during the decolonisation era. But all the same ridiculous and laughable! In my view only those directly affected should decide on their destiny.


    Pro-Putin demonstrators wave Russian national flags as they gather towards Red Square in Moscow.

    Pro-Putin demonstrators wave Russian national flags as they gather towards to Red Square in Moscow, Russia, on 7 March 2014

    The BBC's Ben Brown in Sevastopol says he has spoken to people in the city who say they want the right to a referendum and the right to decide where Crimea belongs. But not all of them want to be part of Russia, he continues, especially younger people.

    Sarah Rainsford, BBC News in Kiev

    tweets: Marble memorial stones appeared on Maidan today, propped on tyres, engraved with the names of the 'Heavenly Hundred'

    Marble stones in Kiev's central square on 7 March 2014

    We are now bringing to an end our live coverage of Thursday's events in Ukraine, on a day when Russia has chosen to back a referendum on Crimea and European observers were denied entry to the Ukrainian region for a second consecutive day. You can follow all the latest news on the BBC News website here.


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